Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Welcome to RepublicanLand

Been reading responses to Katrina in blogworld, and thought this was particularly amusing:

The Republicans have spent the last three or four decades telling us the government can't help us, then put Dubya in the White House, took over all branches of government and proved it.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Evolving Iraq

Two interesting articles about Iraq. I've been having another adjustment in thinking about Iraq, as things continue to, well, not get better, that's for sure. Christopher Hitchens received some attention for his well-written and impassioned defense of the war in the Weekly Standard, entitled A War to Be Proud Of. It's a good read, and he makes many excellent points, as always, about how bad the other options were for dealing with Saddam Hussein, and about how much better it will be for Iraq to be even a highly-imperfect free country than a country controlled by a tyrant. But I must say, to declare that my primary feeling about the war, at this point, is pride, would require a level of shamelessness that I don't possess. I still desperately hope that the end result will be a good one, and it's the only thing we can plan for because the alternative would be terrible, but to say that I feel "proud"? No. Just hopeful that we make sure to turn it into something that America can feel was the right thing.

I'm also frustrated that Hitchens continues to focus his best intellectual firepower on gunning down the likes of Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore, but when he has a chance to publish an article in the Weekly Standard, a publication read by many Washington conservatives, he mostly re-affirms the rightness of the war, instead of blasting the people responsible for making a positive outcome of this war a question mark: the Bush Administration. Seems like an opportunity wasted, as the effect I think is mainly to reassure conservatives who might be feeling a bit uneasy about how things are going that they shouldn't worry, it's still the right thing.

A better reflection of how an idealistic liberal hawk should respond to Iraq is this article by Jonathan Chait called Defending the War: Dove Tale in today's New Republic. This paragraph pretty well sums things up:

Given that things have not gone terribly well to date, a certain degree of humility is in order here. (In 2002 and 2003, I wrote a TNR cover story and a couple of editorials defending the war in fairly strident terms.) I'm tempted to accept the chastening and slink away. The trouble is that things aren't quite as clear-cut as the doves would have it. And more is at stake here than pundit bragging rights. The clear implication of this dressing-down is the view that the Democratic Party needs to nominate a war opponent in 2008 in particular and to stop listening to its hawkish foreign policy intellectuals in general.

One of the bad outcomes of the poor execution of this war is the fact that I look like a jackass to many of the liberals to whom I defended the Bush Administration. Well, ok, that's not really a very important bad outcome, but more broadly, the Bush Administration seems intent on making people like Michael Moore and MoveOn.org look like foreign policy geniuses. And this is very bad for the Democrats. Even though things have clearly not gone as I would have hoped in Iraq, I'm still in the "idealistic interventionist" foreign policy camp. And I still hate the "anti-war, anti-US military" attitude that continues to hold much of the Democratic base in thrall. I think this idea that the U.S. is the primary cause of war and violence around the world, and that the world would be a more peaceful place if the U.S. were no longer the biggest military power and willing to exercise that power, is morally bankrupt and based on a leftist fantasy. Prior to the Vietam War, Democratic politiicians were proud to have a forceful miitary and an assertively anti-totalitarian foreign policy. Coincidentally, since the Democrats abandoned this hawkish stance in 1972 with McGovern's campaign, they've gone on to win just three out of the next nine presidential elections. So, not only is the, shall we call it, McGovernite foreign policy wrong, but it's also politically suicidal.

Which is why looking at all the things Bush has done that I really hate does not make me reconsider my support for the Iraq war, it just makes me more ticked off that Democrats have continued to ensure that the likes of George W. Bush will be elected president by refusing to re-vamp their foreign policy and their image as, at best, being uncomfortable with the exercise of military power. Used to be, Americans who wanted a strong military could choose between a Repubican or a Democrat. Now, if they want a strong military, they have to vote for the Republian, and our reward is having the country run by the pro-tax cuts for the rich, anti-people welfare, pro-corporate welfare, anti-science, anti-environmental, pro-oil, pro-nuclear, pro-Christian wackos party.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next presidential election.

Aftermath of Katrina

When the United States responds to a natural disaster as though we were a Third World backwater country, something is seriously screwed up. The total incompetence of the response is mind-boggling. Of course, I'm not a Bush fan to begin with, but I think it's perfectly reasonable for people to be pointing fingers at the federal government and Bush in particular. I'm sure some of the incompetence is at the level of state and local officials who aren't necessarily affected by the feds, but I think over the next few weeks we'll see more and more evidence of how the federal government, and yes Bush, screwed up. In a sad way, it's useful as a demonstration to Americans of what happens when the government is run by people who deeply despise government or, at best, are uninterested in basic government functions.

More specifically, this is the result when the country is being run by a Republican party that holds the following (internally contradictory) belief system:

1. The federal government should be shrunk -- in Grover Norquist's famous quote, they've been trying to shrink it until it can be drowned in the bathtub. Specifically, this belief manifests itself in cuts to funding to state governments and cuts to basic social and infrastructure programs.

2. Massive tax cuts. This is, of course, the major goal of shrinking the federal government -- so you can cut taxes. To be fair to Bush, tax cuts were a useful spur to the economy which was starting to go into recession in 2001 and took a huge hit after September 11th. However, I have always objected to the focus of the cuts, much of which went to the already-wealthy. (For what's it's worth, I got next to nothing.) And the wisdom of continuing to make tax cuts a major focus of your domestic policy when you're in the midst of a huge war effort is dubious.

3. Enormous and expanding military power and an interventionist foreign policy. We have the most powerful and technologically advanced military in the world. By far. No one even comes close. This doesn't happen by accident; it happens because we've made a public policy decision to do whatever it takes to make our military the best. If we wanted to have the best, most advanced infrastructure system, we would. It's just not been a policy priority. What has been a policy priority is to undertake a massively expensive war effort while cutting taxes. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I supported the Iraq war, but you can't conduct that type of operation and continue to push for major tax cuts. Unless, of course, you're planning on taking the money from other government spending -- on, say, infrastructure, emergency management programs etc. There is also a tendency in Congress to fund incredibly expensive new gadgets for the military -- some of which have little value.

4. a) Government should be a friend to business; b) pork is politically useful so we will look the other way while it happens (even though our public position is that we oppose federal government spending). Today's Republicans have no qualms about funneling large amounts of public money to various business interests, as well as to stupid projects in their districts. Take a look through the recent Energy Policy and transportation authorization bills and you'll see massive giveaways to conventional energy interests, and funding for ludicrous infrastructure projects that, coincidentally, will occur in the home states of powerful Congressmen (and really, it's mostly men). So what little money is left over after you've lowered taxes while expanding military needs is being funneled toward useless projects and influential corporations.

Not to sound callous, but I'm just pleased it actually happened while the people responsible for this delightful new Frankenstein government philosophy are still in charge and can be blamed for it.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Whew, I'm Still Not a Conservative!

Yesterday, I was watching the footage of looters in the hurricane-stricken areas, and, without warning, this thought crept into my head: Geez, there's a major crisis and these people decide it's an invitation to start stealing? What has happened to our morals? I was a little surprised, and thinking what a conservative old goat I had indeed turned into. Until I saw some of the right-wing bloggers' responses, and was reminded yet again that American conservatism has been redefined so far right as to be nuzzling up to, say, Mussolini. Here's some sample commentary brought to you by Ankle-Biting Pundits, the kind of folks who made it necessary for Bush to pretend to create a "compassionate" form of conservatism:

Anyone caught looting (and I don't mean the folks getting food or water or other survival items) should get a bullet between their eyes. Once word gets around that they're being shot on sight, you won't see these human scum going down the flooded street with new Air Jordans or big screen TV's.

How charming. Yes, indeed, we should institute the death penalty for stealing. No really, that's what one of the other posters really thinks:

We have Marshall Law there. I would have no problem with the classic 'shoot looters on sight' kind of Marshall Law.

Marshall Law? Is that like the Marshall Plan?

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